WRITTEN BY: EMMA COFFEY
Leading Women of Tomorrow at the University of Tennessee is a student-run organization of women that has an objective of bridging the gender gap among public representatives and motivating women to pursue leadership.
This unique organization on campus addresses the marginalization of women in government head-on and inspires women across campus to run for offices and other head positions.
The organization was founded in 2019 by Kaylee Sheppard, who is now a graduate student at the university. The chapter at UT is part of the national organization, which now has over 60 chapters across the nation.
Currently, the president of Leading Women of Tomorrow is junior public administration major Savannah Hall; she served as vice president last year when the organization began.
“I served as vice president in our founding year, and we mainly focused on establishing the chapter here at UTK and finding members. The goal of the organization is to empower women to pursue their dreams by providing resources and a space for like-minded women to support each other,” Hall said.
Hall’s role as president is to make it a priority to invite insightful, powerful speakers, create workshops for growth and leadership and make a platform for women to get to know each other professionally and socially.
Leading Women of Tomorrow has a full executive team with specific roles designed to make sure the organization thrives: Vice President Ella Russell, Secretary Kristy Williams, Social Media Director Sascha Richey, Treasurer Alex Dement, Director of Membership Rachael Walker and Public Relations Assistant Avery Rodgers.
There are currently 98 members after fall and rolling recruitment, which is a considerable increase from the 33 returning members at the start of the fall semester.
The members are a part of a variety of majors ranging from business, political science, social work, anthropology, nursing, kinesiology and cinema studies. The academic years of the organization’s members are also diverse, with around an equal number of freshmen, sophomores, juniors and seniors.
Hall gave more insight on what the organization has been doing this fall.
“Over the summer, I created the Yellow Rose Series, which is a virtual program commemorating 100 years of women’s suffrage. So far, Knoxville Mayor Indya Kincannon and Tennessee State Senator Sara Kyle have spoken to us through our Yellow Rose Series,” Hall said.
“Both incredible women told us a little bit about their professional journey, gave us important advice and answered all our questions. We will be continuing this series for the rest of the school year and have two more speakers left for this semester.”
The organization has been hosting meetings over the Zoom platform, with one being a presentation by the Vols Vote Coalition. The members were educated about early voting and absentee voting, as well as an overview of the candidates.
“Our organization is non-partisan, so we try to uphold that in everything we do by presenting both sides,” Hall said.
“Next week we will be hearing from Tennessee Senator Becky Massey, who is up for reelection along with Senator Kyle. We will conclude the semester with an election watch party and a Yellow Rose Series event with Shelby County Court Clerk Wanda Halbert,” Hall said.
“Our Director of Membership, Rachael Walker, is conducting a Kahoot night featuring questions all about Ruth Bader Ginsburg,” Hall added.
Leading Women of Tomorrow is clearly finding safe ways to overcome the challenges of COVID-19 so the members can experience what it is like to be a woman in the organization and reach their goals.
Freshman public relations major Olivia Hailey explained why she recently joined Leading Women of Tomorrow.
“I wanted to be a part of Leading Women of Tomorrow on campus long before school even started. Just from their Instagram presence and by word of mouth, it seemed like a strong group of women who advocate for each other and learn and grow together, and that is exactly what I was looking for here,” Hailey said.
Each member is very passionate about the mission of the organization, allowing for it to have a very bright future ahead.
Leading Women of Tomorrow is accepting new members through recruitment when students get back on campus for spring semester. They recommend women to join if they are looking to make connections and grow professionally.
More information about Leading Women of Tomorrow and their spring recruitment can be found on their social media accounts under the handle @lwtutk.